A tale of a city and Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul”

A city, a ruined emperor, a melancholy. You’ll found these when you open the book, Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul”.

This book is an autobiography of the author as well as the city because the author tells his story when writing about the city and the city’s story when writing about himself. For this reason, the reviews of this novel can’t be apart from each other too.

As a child, as a young man, as a grown-up man, the author saw Istanbul from various points of view, at different stages of life, as he never left his neighbourhood. He knows the story, he tells the story as he lives his entire life in Istanbul.

The famous author of this famous novel “Istanbul” is Orhan Pamuk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006.  The book is consist of 37 chapters, an Index, and a chapter called, “ About the photograph”. And translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely, the book is a joyful and pleasant reading in English Version.

As earlier said, the book is a combination of author’s life and the history of a city, the book is naturally combined of two mixing parts: the author’s life story and the city’s. As the book is named after the city itself, it’ll be nice to write about the city’s part first.

The author mentioned a quotation before starting the novel, quoted by Ahmet Rasim, “The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy.” This quotation easily makes you clear that you are going to reading the story of a melancholic city and its even melancholic writer. And with great care about this melancholy, the author makes clear the definition of the melancholy of this book’s “Huzun” chapter, which the readers will find helpful to understand the melancholy of the city and the author properly, during reading the book.

In the chapters 4,5,6,7,11,14,15,16,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,30 and 31 you’ll find the city’s history. A nice and realistic description about the city at the starting chapter of this book, that “in a century’s time it would be the capital of the world. The reverse came true: After the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the world almost forgot that Istanbul Existed.”

During the moment when Istanbul, was in a process to leave its heritage and adopted the westernization, the city itself has, for such changes, a deep melancholy, which it wants to express by its lonely melancholic writers like the memoirist Abdulhak Sinasi Hisar, the poet Yahya Kemal, the novelist Ahmed Hamdi Tanpinar, and the journalist-historian Resat Ekrem Kocu . And then another writer haunted by the city’s melancholy, Orhan Pamuk, on whom life the huzun have a great impact.

The city wants to tell its story by a possessed observer of the city, who loves Istanbul for its ruin, for its huzun, for the glories once possessed and later lost.
As a result, you’ll find repeatedly the existence of Istanbul even when the author starts to speak about himself. It seems as if, the author has a deep understanding of the city’s spirit.

The ottoman emperor is one of the famous and influential emperors of the world, especially to the Muslims. After the victory of the Istanbul from the Christians, to Muslims, it is the victory of Istanbul, to Christians, it is the fall of the Constantinople
Once it was such a city that anyone can easily assume this city will be the centre of the world one day. But unfortunately, the reverse comes true and in course of time, Istanbul turns to an isolated, poor, fragile ad melancholic city.
As the city situated both in Asia and Europe, there is an East and West view, Eastern and Western conflict, but in spite of these, peoples are happy to feel as Istanbul.
The city has some customers those days, which a reader can find easily by the author’s writing with arrangements.

The author talks about the history, culture, heritage, about the streets, about Galata Bridge, and how Istanbul was in those days.

The collapse of the Ottoman emperor and the westernization make fall the city in chaos. The fire on pasha’s empty palaces, removed the sign of ottoman emperor one by one and the new European designed buildings, apartments silently declare the birth of westernization.

The city wants to show its beauty. And the painter Melling, Nerval presented this historical beauty in their painting.

The city wants to tell its story. And it succeeded. The four melancholic, alone writer of Istanbul sacrificed their entire life to tell its melancholic story, to collect its sign of heritage. And no one is successful to tell its story like Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul”.

Now, about the other part. In chapters 1,3,13,17,28,30, 33, 34,35 and 36 you’ll find the words about the author himself.

The author starts to tell his story by another Orhan in another house. He always imagines and feels the existence of another Orhan in another house in Istanbul. The author never leaves his neighbourhood. His childhood, his grown-up times, his every time indeed, bonded with this city.

The fall of ottoman Emperor and the starting of Westernisation have a great effect also on the author’s family. Troubles between his parents, quarrel about the division of property, these very common features of life can’t rub out the colour of happiness between them, another common feature of life. The author freely describes the daily events what can be happened in a joint family. And the little joke of their housemaid Bekir is enjoyable too.

The author’s relationship with his parents, brother, grandma, aunts, housemaids, friends are describing by the author in such a way that it makes a happy reading and it feels very similar as our own relationships to these persons.
The author shares his view about religion and his loves to painting Istanbul in his early days.

The author talks about the rich society of Istanbul, their western views and their secularism.

And of course, in this entire novel, you can’t avoid the Bosphorus, a natural beauty, a geographically important and internationally recognized canal. And the ships on Bosphorus.

Bosphorus and Bosphorus you’ll find repeatedly in the Istanbul novel, as it is the heart and pride of this ancient city.

Conflict comes, in most of our lives. The author was not exceptional. The story of his first love, the romantic, emotional and passionate love story follows a tragedy, which broke the author and his daily life routine. The memory of Black Rose, his lover, again replaced by the melancholy of Istanbul. The author almost lost his passion for painting and study, and he lost his normal daily life routine.

The gradual absence from his study life gave rise bitter arguments between the author and his mother. As a mother, the author’s mother naturally was very careful about her son’s future. In those days, Istanbul was not perfect for artists. His mother was very worried when the author decides to be an artist. After repeatedly bitter arguments between them, after compromising, and understanding with his own, the author finally decides, he’ll be a writer, not an artist.

When you close the book, you may have two feelings.

One, the author’s life is as very normal and almost similar to our daily lives. The events were strangely similar to ours. And without being apart from his neighbourhood, he won the Nobel Prize. It proves a very simple man can turn to someone famous in someday.

Two, a city may not die, but it’ll be changed in the course of time. But the colour of its history, the fragrance of its old heritage never can be removed.
Someone in somewhere of this city will always feel the huzun of that city, want to share it’s melancholy.

This is the moment when another Orhan Pamuk starts to write another “Istanbul”.